The Dimmer Switch

Since March, 1988, when the Lefebre and Burke Weight Loss & Laser Centre opened, I have had countless number of patients say that the “Dimmer Switch” concept has helped (more than any other idea) change their thinking and attitude in respect to their weight control efforts.

It has become apparent to me since our opening many years ago, that the majority of overweight patients treat their overweight condition based on whether they are “on” or “off” a diet. Usually they would say to themselves, that they have to do something about their weight and would go “on” a diet. They would then proceed to do all the things that are on the “diet on” list (i.e. drink their water, exercise and of course, follow the diet exactly.) This is great, but sooner or later they have a slip. They now say to themselves, that I’m “off” the diet and proceed to do all the things that are on the “diet off” list (i.e. eating junk food, stop drinking water, stop exercising, etc.). This type of thinking actually sets one up for failure, because the only way to be always “on” is to be always perfect. Since no one can be perfect all the time we’ll actually be “off” more than “on”. This type of thinking is called “Light Bulb Thinking”, because a light bulb is either on or off.

To help combat this problem, I get my patients to stop thinking about whether they are on or off a diet and start thinking “weight control”. I have them think about weight control as a dimmer switch (that many of us have on the light fixture in our dining rooms). I get them to analyze a meal, a day, a weekend, a wedding, a party, or a stressful event on how much control they had, versus whether or not they are on or off their diet. Excellent control would be a very bright light and poor control would be a much fainter light. Keep in mind however that any light is considered control and therefore would demonstrate success. I encourage them to play with their dimmer switch at home at the end of the day and rate their control (even if their family might tease them for doing so).

A WEDDING EXAMPLE

Take a wedding for example. Instead of saying that you are going to go off your diet at the wedding on Saturday night, put the “Dimmer Switch” theory into practice. You start off at the wedding by having a couple of cocktails and the light begins to fade (but doesn’t go off like the on-off theory.) You catch yourself and eat a few celery sticks instead of potato chips and dip. The light brightens and you begin to feel positive. You make various choices from the buffet table causing the light to oscillate back and forth. You dance a lot (exercise) causing a bright light tempered by a few more cocktails (with diet mix), causing the dimmer switch continually to go back and forth. At the end of the evening, you summarize the wedding by playing with your dimmer switch at home. All the light on the chandelier would be your success. Just think what would have happened if after your first cocktail the dimmer switch went all the way to off and the light went out. Anytime we shut the light off, just think about the power it takes to get the light going again. This is what actually would have happened to our mental powers and motivation when in the past, we practiced the “on-off” diet approach.

In summary, remember the “Dimmer Switch” and think “Weight Control” versus on or off a diet. Play with your dimmer switch for a few weeks analyzing your day, weekend, happy event (wedding) or a painful, stressful event such as a funeral and remind yourself that as long as there is light shining from the chandelier, you have been successful in controlling your weight.

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